Cacaxtla, Mexico: Travel/Tourist Information Guide
Situated about 20km from Tlaxcala, Cacaxtla is one of Mexico’s most intriguing archeological ruins, with a great collection of vivid, high quality murals, depicting everyday life. The site was discovered in 1975, when locals from the nearby villages, searching valuable relics, dug a tunnel to uncover one of the ruin’s murals. All the works uncovered at Cacaxtla, which include frescos of life-sized eagle-warriors and jaguars battling it out, are on display within the site itself.
The on-site museum, restaurant and is a 200m walk, opposite side of the parking lot. Another 600m downhill from the ticket office, visitors will reach the site’s main attraction: a 200m long and 25m high natural platform, known as Gran Basamento (Great Base). This is where Cacaxtla’s main civic and religious buildings once stood, and where the ruling priestly classes resided. Atop the entry stairs is Plaza Norte, from where a clockwise path around the ruins, leads to the site’s murals. There is a unique style in the murals, only found in Cacaxtla, combining Aztec influence with Olmeca-Xicalanca depictions.
Just before reaching the murals, there is a small patio with an altar. Numerous human remais were found in the small square pit just before the altar. Templo de Venus, just beyond the altar, houses two anthropomorphic sculptures, a male and a female wearing jaguar-skin skirts. The temple’s name comes from the appearance of multiple half-stars around the female figure, which are associated with the planet Venus. Templo Rojo, containing four murals, lays on the opposite site of Plaza Norte. Unfortunately only one of its murals is visible, depicting a row of corn and cacao crops with human heads on their husks.
The Mural de la Batalla (Battle Mural), across the northern side of Plaza Norte, depicts two warrior groups , one wearing bird feathers, while the other wearing jaguar skins, engaging in battle. The jaguar warriors, representing the Olmeca-Xicallanca people are repelling the invading bird warriors, representing the Huastecs. The Mural de la Batalla dates back to before 700 AD. A second major mural group follows just up the stairs, to the left.
The sister archeological site of Xochitécatl, just 2km away, is much older and features a circular pyramid and an exceptionally wide rectangular one. The Pirámide de la Espiral (circular pyramid) is thought to have been built between 1000 and 800 BC, as a temple to Ehécatl or as an astronomical observatory post. All that remains of the Pirámide de los Volcanes, is it’s base, made up of materials from two different periods. A carved stone with a snake head gives the Pirámide de la Serpiente its name. Lastly, Pirámide de las Flores is believed to have been the place of rituals honoring the fertility god, due to the discovery of several sculptures and the many remains of sacrificed infants.